Chances are you’ve heard this story before. An ordinary citizen going about an ordinary day suddenly gains superhuman power (from a fancy suit, an insect bite, an experiment gone wrong). Maybe our hero is truly superhuman, like a surprisingly normal-looking alien masquerading behind a pair of glasses. (Seriously, could no one figure out that Clark Kent was Superman?) With this great new power comes great responsibility, as the saying goes. Our new hero (superhero!) might fight that responsibility at first, perhaps feeling unworthy or perhaps feeling the enormity of the task. But our hero eventually submits to duty, bringing justice to a corrupt city and saving it from a maniacal villain.
Superhero movies are popular to say the least. Consider this: there have been more than two dozen Marvel movies in just fifteen years. It’s no surprise that they generate interest—and revenue. They are full of action, adventure, and intrigue. Just about every emotion we are capable of feeling is on display at some point: love, fear, anger, regret, doubt, joy, grief, hope.
Now consider this: the Greek myths have been told, in some form or another, for over two thousand years. Imagine how many people have heard the stories of Pandora, Icarus, or Odysseus. And of course many other ancient cultures had their own myths which are still shared today.
Myths are entertaining. But that’s not why we read them at Trinitas. Yes, we’re a classical school. But a story isn’t good just because it’s old. We seek value in what we read. And because we’re a Christian classical school, we look for deeper, grace- and gospel-filled value. We don’t read about virtuous behavior (or the lack of it) just to gain thoughtful perspectives on human behavior. We read myths because we are called to love God and love others.
Think of a story as both a window and a mirror. We can see through it, into a world of adventure, mystery, or drama. But it also reflects us. In fact, that is the very nature of stories. They tell us more about ourselves—the people who read them and love them and share them—than the characters in them. Those characters never live in isolation from the reader. We invite them in. They speak to us. We, in a way, speak to them by interpreting and internalizing their thoughts and actions. You might say we, as readers, are part of the real plot.
Mythological stories, like all stories, engage our sense of wonder and our sense of empathy. Myths serve as a bridge, spanning thousands of years, connecting us to people who lived long, long ago. We may think of those people as very different. Certainly times have changed. But consider the similarities. They, too, were parents, children, neighbors, friends. People. Like us. People who asked the same questions we ask: Who am I? What is this world? What am I to do in this world? People who look up at the stars in the night sky and ask: Is there a god? Does that god care about me?
But while myths don’t leave humans too certain about their fate or comfortable about what the gods might do at any given moment (the words proud, capricious, and spiteful come to mind), we have received a gospel of good news that says, yes, indeed there is a god: THE God, creator of heaven and earth. And yes, God cares about you. More than you can imagine. And—praise God—this good news is not just a story told to entertain or to impart knowledge of who we are or morals of how to act. It’s truth. It’s history. It’s the promise of salvation and new life.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
Now that’s a super story.